Jacob Marinez has wanted to be a firefighter in Phoenix, Arizona, for as long as he can remember. He worked hard in school, got a college education and started CrossFit to ensure he was physically ready for the challenges of the job.
“My goal after high school was to go to college, get my degree and get on the fire department,” says Marinez, whose father, uncle and cousin have served as firefighters in Phoenix. “It’s an extended part of my family.”
Marinez, 23, is still working toward his dream job.
Throughout his life, Marinez has had one big obstacle: living with Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary movements or “tics” of the face, arms or limbs.
Once embarrassed by his twitches, Marinez has learned to control them with the help of CrossFit and good nutrition. A member of Urban WarFit CrossFit, he’s found a place where he feels comfortable.
“The moment that kid grabs a bar or a pull-up bar or that ‘3-2-1 go!’ hits, it’s like all of a sudden, this technical machine comes out,” says Rob Pyfer, owner of Urban WarFit CrossFit. “And he’s methodical, and he moves through it, and he just has a really good understanding of how to wrap his brain around whatever that set work is in front of him.”
Through the confidence he’s gained from CrossFit, Marinez has started to compete, using his twitching to help him prepare.
“I kind of use it as my strength,” he says. “You’ll definitely see (the twitching), and I challenge all of you people watching this, if you see me out there competing, notice what I’m doing when I’m warming up—things I do with my neck and with my shoulders. I’ll twitch, and that’s that Tourette’s coming out.”
He adds: “Now it’s kind of like my way of getting ready for a workout. It’s my drive.”
Video by Ali Adib
Additional reading: “Exercise Is the Drug” by Chris Cooper, published Dec. 8, 2013.